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This is Mildred Taylor talking with Barbara Cady Peckham, a long time resident of Teaneck, whose with the Public Library. We are making the tape in connection with the Oral History Project of the History of Teaneck.
(I) How long have you lived in Teaneck Barbara?
(N) Just about all my life. For a short time, I lived in New England and then I moved back to Teaneck.
(I) When did your parents come to Teaneck?
(N) I don't exactly remember. I think about 1920.
(I) And your father was an architect and he was, what school was he a graduate of?
(N) Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Pennsylvania.
(I) So then where did they live when they first came here?
(N) They lived in what is known as the Samuel Banta House which has since been torn down.
(I) One of the historic houses of Teaneck.
(N) Right. An old house on Teaneck Road.
(I) Do you know how old that house was when it was built?
(N) Well, when I was small, I think, it was probably 150 years old at that time.
(I) So were you born there?
(N) I was born in Englewood.
(I) But that house was a very historic house and Mr. Cady prided himself on it very much because it was an old...
(N) It was very charming, a very charming old Dutch house. And I think at one time it had been a poor house before. .
(I) And then your parents lived there until they died, did they?
(I) And then what happened to it? It was sold?
(N) It was sold and it was torn down.
(I) What was the number on Teaneck Road?
(I) Up there in the northeast section. And it is now business property I believe. Isn't it?
(I) And where did you go to school?
(N) I went to Bryant School.
(I) That was the one your father built?
(N) Well no, it was built. My dad put an addition on it later on. But that was built. I don't know what year it was built. Because I went to kindergarten and it was there when I went to kindergarten.
(I) Then did you go to Teaneck High School?
(I) And what year did you graduate there?
(I) 1944. So that was during the war years. Do you remember much about the war time effort in Teaneck?
(N) I remember that we had a coal shortage. I remember lots of fellows that I went to school with graduating and going right into the service. I remember my mother was an air raid warden and one day stopped this truck along Teaneck Road and the truck driver got very upset because she wouldn't let him go. I can remember the blackouts that we had during the war and the gasoline rationing, of course, and food stamps.
(I) And did any of your high school friends lose their lives in the war?
(I) Can you think of any of the boys who died?
(N) Not off hand. That is a few years back.
(I) I was talking to Mary Mittlemas and cousin, I guess it was, Robert Mittlemas was lost in action during the war too. I don't know if you ever knew him or not. He was in Japan.
(N) His name sounds familiar but I . .
(I) How many were in your family?
(N) I have a brother and a sister.
(I) And your mother was very active in community affairs, wasn't she?
(N) Yes. She was active in Girl Scouts and she was the president of the PTA and of course she supported my dad in all the things he did.
(I) And now what are some of the buildings that your father designed? I know many of our. .
(N) My father designed this library that we are sitting in right now. He designed the Fire House on Teaneck Road and he put additions on the Bryant School and the Hawthorne School and he designed the Police Headquarters. He designed the Fire House on Cedar Lane. I think that is it in Teaneck.
(I) I know the Historic Sites Committee, when they made their survey of Teaneck, spoke especially of Teaneck's good fortune in having excellent architects to design their public buildings and Mr. Cady was one of those that kept our municipal complex in keeping with the whole style of architecture that actually I think started with the Town Hall but the excellent design, and your father was cited very highly for his architectural ability.
(N) Right. They also designed very nice little bus terminals that have since been torn down. They designed very nice little buildings for all the public parks that have since been torn down. They had a lot of things going on in the community. (I) Is the bandshell in Central Park in memory of your father?
(N) The bandshell was in memory of my father and he has nothing to do with the wretched design.
(I) But the Rotary Club erected that bandshell in Central Park to honor Mr. Cady, the architect.
(N) My father also had a little garden before the addition was put on this library, one of the little atriums on the side of the building was dedicated to my father. But that since has been torn down too.
(I) And when did he die?
(N) He died in 1952.
(I) And you mother survived?
(N) My mother lived about seven years after that.
(I) Well they certainly were an asset to the community and now you have married and you have a family. How many children do you have?
(N) Two. A daughter and son.
(I) And what are they doing now? Where did they go to school?
(N) My son went to the public school and my daughter went to the Dwight School in Englewood.
(I) So how long have you been working for the library?
(N) Not too long really.
(I) But you enjoy the work?
(N) Oh, I love it. Who wouldn't?
(I) That's true. We've got a beautiful library and beautiful people working in it. Also you have your taxi service. Would you like to mention that. That you provide service, limousine service? That was your side line.
(N) No, that was not my side line. My husband, you know, was para1ized from his neck down and was not able to breathe and he was a man with a good education and suddenly wasn't able to do anything so he started what was known at Peckham Driver Service.
(I) When did that happen to your husband?
(N) In about 1952. The same year that my dad died.
(I) Oh, that was quite a blow. And you carried on. You've done a wonderful, wonderful thing. That was wonderful for him to be able to do something while he was immobile. Wasn't he in an iron lung for a long time?
(N) My husband was never able to breathe for almost thirty years. He had to have apparatus to help him breathe.
(I) You had that in your home, the
(N) We had equipment in our home.
(I) That was very new, wasn't it, at that time?
(N) Well an iron lung wasn't new but about two years after my husband came home, when he was still all paralyzed and not able to breathe, they perfected some new equipment, portable respirators and such things, so that he was able to go out in a car and able to go on vacations.
(I) Oh, that's nice.
(N) And the telephone company came to our house and designed a special telephone for my husband so that he was able to be independent even though he wasn't able to use his hands.
(I) He couldn't use his hands.
(N) He couldn't use anything.
(I) So that kept you tied down. Were you right there all the time or did you. . You had to be.
(N) Yes. We had the children to raise. My husband had to have an attendant all the time.
(I) Well that was certainly a wonderful experience for your part in it certainly and so how long did he have, thirty years you say?
(N) After he was stricken with polio? How long did he live?
(I) Oh, it was polio that he had?
(N) Right. He lived. . How old was he? Do you want to know how old he was? Why, is that necessary?
(I) No, it's not necessary but just thirty years is a long time.
(N) My husband was 59 when he died.
(I) And how did you manage with the children? How could you get them off to school and do the cooking and all the things that a lady has to do?
(N) Well it took teamwork. I have two wonderful children and I had a wonderful husband so everybody helped everybody else and it worked.
(I) Well I'll tell you, that's really amazing. Well what do you notice of changes in Teaneck in that many years?
(N) Oh yes. Of course. Anybody that has lived in Teaneck for a number of years is going to notice changes.
(I) Well there are not too many more people now. I think the population has remained the same for quite a while, hasn't it?
(N) I think the population has dropped a little bit, hasn't it?
(I) Yes, but do you notice any change in the social, there have always been meetings in Teaneck.
(N) I think the big change in Teaneck is that it has changed into a more cosmopolitan atmosphere.
(I) That's true.
(N) New York has come out to Teaneck. One time, when I was in high school, that was also during the war, Teaneck or New Jersey was like a foreign country to people who lived in New York City. So of course now my kids don't even understand when I tell them that because as far as they are concerned, it has always been busy here and it is much more like it is in New York City than it was when we were growing up.
(I) That's right and there were more family activities in those days too.
(N) Well surely. I mean we had fields next to our house and we had woods behind our house and I can remember over beyond Trafalgar it was all lovely woods and Winthrop Road had fields. You could walk in the fields. And then I guess in the 40s or in the 50s, after the war it really became built up and there weren't too many lots left in Teaneck to build on.
(I) I remember your mother telling me one time that she used to walk over to Fort Lee Road to take the streetcar when she was going into New York and she spoke of the big violets that grew around your area there, across the street. What was the lady who lived in that big house?
(N) Ackermans. They lived in a big Victorian house across the street from us which is now the telephone company.
(I) And didn't they keep sheep?
(N) Yes. And you could walk from our house behind theirs down a path to catch the train to New York City. The West Shore when there was a train station there. And they were lovely. I remember when we were kids, we used to go and pick the violets.
(I) She said they had enormous violets and it was beautiful.
(N) It was beautiful. There was nothing built up. Tryon Avenue wasn't extended then. It only went as far as State Street. And then there was that same little shopping area and then down where Goodman's is now, was the train station.
(I) That was handy.
(N) Anybody that lived in the West Englewood area that wanted to go into the city, if they didn't want to go in a bus, they just took the train. And the train I guess went down to, I can't remember, I was pretty little when this was going on, I think it went to
(N) Yes, Weehawken. And then you took the ferry into New York. And that was fun.
(I) Do you remember when they built 34 State Street, the apartment building there? It stood vacant for so long.
(N) I was a baby then. I remember that because it was set kind of in the field. I guess there were people living in it but it wasn't the booming thing that people expected.
(I) I understand it was empty for quite a long time before they finished it but of course you don't remember that.
(N) No, I don't remember that. I was really little. But I do remember we used to roller skate on State Street and Ayers Court. And the town would block it off and you could go down because it had islands in the middle. Do you know Ayers Court?
(I) Yes I know.
(N) You would go down one side and up the other and it was really great fun because you would go in the fall and it would be dark and all the kids in Teaneck used to go and roller skate there and it was fun. There wasn't much traffic and there were some apartments there. Of course the State Street apartment was there but there wasn't much else as I recall.
(I) Of course the commuting was the big thing. Everybody in the morning and the evening, they walked their husbands to the train or they met them and the working women went into work in New York and that was the big thing. On the train coming home at night, I used to see them.
(N) Well of course the house that I grew up in was naturally on the county road because all the Dutch houses were on the county roads so you could get a bus and I can always remember taking a bus into New York City too.
(I) And after you finished high school, what did you do?
(N) What did I do, I went to the Arts Students League in New York City.
(I) And then what did you do as your first job?
(N) I worked for A. C. Neilsen's. The people that do the ratings. I worked in their graphics department.
(I) Well I guess that fits right in with your work in the library. I suppose you do some of your artistic work, do you do some of that here in the library, your art work? Designing?
(N) I do some things.
(I) Because I know the library always has such nice displays and nice lettering and all that sort of thing. Well it was right down your alley with your being an artist and with your father's background.
(N) Oh yes. When I was a kid, I always hung around in my father's office so it all came very naturally to me. You know, I mean, I remember seeing the plans developing of this library when I was little. Sure.
(I) When you went to the Art Students League, you went every day back and forth to New York and commuted like the rest of the girls?
(I) The memories of the good old days, I enjoyed talking to both your parents about their memories. Your father was such an interesting and entertaining man and he was, I used to go over to the Municipal Building. You remember of course he was associated there with the Mr. Volcker. They were great pals I understand.
(N) Yes, that's true. And my dad was also Instrumental in working up the building code for the eastern states.
(I) Oh, that's true. Well he was very particular about Teaneck.
(N) Oh yes.
(I) And he . .
(N) Oh yes. There were very strict rules and they really worked and planned and they planted beautiful trees, all the trees that are on the streets were carefully planned. When the Shade Tree commission was planning the town.
(I) And he wouldn't have any look-alike. He didn't want any cookie cutter houses. When the builders would come in and want to set up a whole half block of houses all of the same pattern, he wouldn't have it. I know Mr. Cady said that he made them vary their designs. And also he had strict building codes. So many of the workmen, you know, they always fussed about Teaneck having such, very strict building codes and they had to have so many feet under ground and so on. But it has always been a good thing that Teaneck's buildings have been very sturdy and good.
(N) They always made a point of keeping Teaneck an attractive town. Well at one time remember it was written up in the Saturday Evening Post as being a model town. And they were very, very instrumental in keeping all the buildings off Route 4, commercial buildings which is still
(I) That beautiful mile area there where there is no hot dog stands or anything like that. They to get that right of way along Route 4 there so that they could have control of it.
(N) Well I remember Route 4 during the war when there wasn't a car on it. I used to walk to school and I would walk down Teaneck Road and then up across Route 4 up to the high school.
(I) You walked right across Route 4?
(N) We would walk right up Route 4. There was no traffic. There was no gasoline. There was no cars.
(I) Nobody was going anywhere.
(N) That's right. And what else do I remember about Teaneck that you might like to know? I remember the Big Bear Grocery Store. And there was always Bischoff's. It wasn't quite as grand as it is today. It was kind of old fashioned. It had a tile floor.
(I) Bischoff's has been there a long time, hasn't it? But it was a gathering place for young people then as now.
(N) I remember Cedar Lane when there were Victorian houses on it.
(I) You remember houses on Cedar Lane? I remember them on Teaneck Road but I . .
(N) I remember they tore down a big house to build the Acme.
(I) That's right.
(N) And then across the street where the Texaco Station is there was a big house there.
(I) The Chadwick House I think was where the Acme is.
(N) That's right. I think so.
(I) I had forgotten about that. And then the American Legion House, remember that house there on Garrison Avenue where the American Legion was? That was an old house.
(N) Yes, yes, yes. Of course I remember that.
(I) Now there's a parking lot there.
(N) That's right. And then they built that new one I guess. Down by the railroad station. There was a big Victorian house right down the hill from the high school. I've forgotten who lived there, what the family's name was, and then there was a lovely house right where the Eugene Field School is. Do you remember that?
(I) Yes, that lady was Mrs., oh, I remember her husband was a doctor.
(N) That's right. And then it was turned into a restaurant.
(I) Hilford. Hilford was their name. And they lived in that house and that had been the home of the first mayor of Teaneck, William Bennett used to live there in that house before they, and then the Hilford's moved in and then they tore it down to build the new school.
(N) That's right. I remember that. But there was a restaurant there for a while. Wasn't there?
(I) Yes, that's right.
(N) And then there was a lovely old Dutch Colonial house down the block from where I lived. It was called the Lozier House. It was a lovely brick house. That's where the Food Fair is now. No, Foodtown.
(I) Foodtown, yes.
(N) And across the street from that was a very pretty Victorian house.
(I) Did you know the ladies that lived there, the Lozier ladies that lived in that house? Your mother spoke of them.
(N) No, I was little and they were kind of mysterious ladies and they sat on the porch.
(I) Two sisters, weren't they?
(N) Right. And after I grew up, I realized that they had cataracts or something so they couldn't (inaudible) but they were very mysterious ladies.
(I) And they had chickens.
(N) I don't remember the chickens but Mr. Ackerman who lived across the street from us had a horse, a beautiful riding horse and then he had prize sheep and he was the manager for the Public Service in Englewood and his mother and dad were old Dutch. They came from an old Dutch family. In fact, Mr. Ackerman, he must have been eighty when I was a little girl, he went to Rutgers University. He was I guess in one of the first. .
(I) He used to be quite a sportsman, I remember, in his youth. They used to have a race track long ago across from Hudson Manor. At one time, there was a race track and I remember I read about Mr. Ackerman and he drove a sulky in the horse races there. It was just a small track but it was quite a social affair. No, you wouldn't know that but I've talked to people who. .
(N) But he was a very nice gentlemen and he always wore a black derby and he would go to church on Sunday and he wore a stiff collar and he was the perfect gentlemen of his time.
(I) Teaneck Road has really changed, hasn't it? With all the doctors' offices and all the office buildings there. Hardly any private homes left on Teaneck Road. That's desirable property. And the prices of the homes now. In the olden days when they paid $10,000 for a house, you could get a mansion.
(N) Oh, I guess that's a thing of the past that will never return to this country, right?
(I) That's true. I don't know how they do it now with the high prices of all the real estate.
(N) I am trying to think of other things that I might have remembered when I was little. I remember when I went to Bryant School, the teacher used to take us on an outing and we would walk down, well I guess it is Tryon Avenue now but it was a dirt road and we would go down to Dwight Morrow High School.
(I) That's a good walk.
(N) And there was a little brook and we could play in the brook and it was a lovely walk. It was a real country walk, you know.
(I) Who was the teacher? Do you remember your teacher?
(N) I am sure I do. I had a wonderful teacher named Mrs. Record.
(I) She was the principal of that school later on.
(N) Yeah. I loved her. And Mrs. Pienicki taught me about fourth grade I guess. And Mr. Harris was a young teacher and Mrs. Carson was the kindergarten teacher I think. Wow! And there was a wonderful music teacher that we had, Miss Yule her name was and she became Mrs. Harrison I think. She was the most marvelous lady, filled with music. And she used to put on productions. I remember when I was a kid, she had the children in the school do the Nutcracker Suite and we put it on at the Women's Club and we put it on at the Fox Theater and she was just the most wonderful lady.
(I) And she involved all the children in the town, all the schools combined.
(N) No, just Bryant School. Maybe she did later on when I left that school but she was, she taught lots of children piano and she was a wonderful lady.
(I) Miss Yule?
(N) Miss Yule she was. And then I think she married and she herself went and lived in a beautiful big house up on County Road, a very old house. But I have all happy memories of Bryant School.
(I) That's nice. Who was the principal at the high school when you were there?
(N) Mr. Steel. And Miss Hill was vice principal.
(I) Vice principal. She came later.
(N) In fact, I just went to my 40th reunion.
(I) Well my daughter is coming up to hers this summer. She is going for hers.
(N) It was fun to see everybody. .
(I) Yes, well she is looking forward to it.
(N) I think we had about, maybe we had 400, no I can't remember now many kids we had in the class, that sounds like a lot.
(I) Well then their husbands and wives, I guess,
(N) No, at the reunion we had about maybe 75 people that came from all over the country.
(I) Where did you have it?
(N) Right down here on Teaneck Road at the Imperial Manor, whatever. Is that what it's called?
(I) It used to be the Old Plantation. I don't know what the heck they call it now.
(N) Such is fame. Cut that part out in case the proprietor is listening.
(I) Your 40th reunion, how many were in your class?
(N) I was just trying to remember that. It seems to me 400 people. About 400 people. No, that's not right. It couldn't have been. I am just trying to remember.
(I) Well, I know they had, when one of my children graduated, were 615 graduates. They had an awful. .
(N) How old is your, would that child have been?
(I) Well he is 51 now. So that must have been. . .
(N) Well then I guess there were about 400.
(I) 400 isn't too bad. I remember when my brother went to high school too in Teaneck, the high school had a plane.
(N) Oh, I forgot about that. Who was the teacher for that plane that they had? And that was very good at teaching the boys were all crazy to learn that auto mechanics. Airplane mechanics.
(I) When my brother was in high school, Teaneck had a very high rating. I remember the kids would go to Ivy League schools and it really was quite a school at the time. It was a very nice school when I went there. Mr., he was on the school board, he wasn't my teacher but he taught English at the high school.
(I) Kalmont. No, he wasn't on the school board. I remember Ed Allen was on the school board. Do you remember Miss Ruey? He married Miss Ruey.
(N) That's right. Who else do I remember? From the high school, Miss Gerber. She was our gym teacher.
END OF TAPE
Teaneck Public Library
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